Monthly Archives: August 2021

Schmeling Family History. “Who Am I?” by Elbert Schmiling

We start our family history in the German Country of Prussia, Hinter Pommern, in or near the village of of Treptow. What we call Germany did not come into existence until after the Civil War. The Province of Pommerania was divided into three parts: Fore Pommern, Mitte Pommern and Hinter Pommern. Hinter Pommern was closest to the Polish border. (Pomerania is the present spelling.)  

Since WW II, all of Pomerania is part of Poland and all German people had to leave this area. They were restricted as to what they could carry out in both money and goods as they left.

Our great grandparents, Charles and Dorthea Schrneling owned a small farm in or near the village of Treptow. Charles was a rather unsettled person. The family had to move on the average every two years because Charles traded the place for a different one. The  last two years in Germany were the worst for the family as they had to move six times. This must have been too much for Dorthea. After the sixth time, she demanded they sell out and go to America. (This according to Carl Schmiling).

This is not as sudden as it seems, as they had correspondence with relatives and former neighbors who were in America. Two names (given by Minnie Detjen) were Schieser and Buege. There were also companies making a business of getting immigrants to the U.S.

As close as I can tell, Charles and Dorthea came over in 1857, which would make them in their mid-forties. They had five children at the time. Henry, Hanna (perhaps Johanna), Caroline, Alvina, and our grandfather, Albert. Albert was about five or six at the time and the youngest. I believe I have all of them named. in order of their ages as Minnie recalls them. (In a note from the Krueger family book, Brown County Library, they stated that the fare across the ocean was about $20.00 per person. Their ancestors came from Niederhagen, Pommern, in Prussia, about the same time.)

The family passed over a great deal of very good farm land on their way from the east coast of America. They did not have the money to buy developed land (according to Carl). Their destination was the village of Ahnapee, as Algoma Wisconsin was then called. Ahnapee is an Indian name and means Wolf River.

Charles contacted Orrin Warner, a pioneer English settler in the area, about available government land. I’m not positive, but it may have been homestead land. While they were out looking, Charles slipped into a creek. He pulled himself out, sat on the bank and bawled like a baby. He said, “They could give this old land back to the Indians.” This story was told several times by Sam, or more properly, Simon Warner, the son of Orrin.

I heard the story from Sam, at St. Vincent’s Hospital, in Green Bay. Sam was to have an operation and Herman, Carl and I drove down to see Sam on a Sunday. I must have  been eight or nine years old at the time.  I  remember Sam as a friendly old man who used to stop and talk to Reuben and I on our way to school. He lived on the river side of Hy. 42, the second or third house in Algoma, from the north.

Charles homesickness for the old country would not cease. (This according to Herman Schmeling.) Charles offered his oldest son, Henry, a pair of copper toed boots if he would go back to Prussia with him. This must have been a tempting offer, as copper toed boots were the rage of the young men and boys of that day. Despite all this, Charles laid claim to what must have been about 80 acres, 1 mile north of Ahnapee, on the river road.

(According to Carl) The first house on the land Charles claimed was near the line fence, by the Hilton farm, near the present highway, on the hill. Hilton was another early English settler, and, was interested in getting more English people to settle in the area. He sold, or gave, some land, about four acres, to an English family to get them interested in staying in the area, but German families kept moving in.  There was an understanding these four acres would be sold back to the Hiltons if things didn’t work out.  As it turned out, for some reason, the land was sold to Charles, at a later date. I believe the name of the English family was Boalt. I think the four acres plot is part of the twenty-four acre deal for which we have a warranty deed.  In this four acre plot is a part, called by Charles or Albert, “The Devil’s Half Acre.” ( According to Herman). This one-half   acre is composed of a heavy bluish clay that proves hard to work, even with modern tractors.

The land sale made two jogs in the line fence. One, for the four acres; the other, because of the twenty acre field. I remember August Krause, the next owner of the Hilton place, asking Herman to sell him the four acres to straighten out the line fence. Herman said he would buy the land in the other direction, whereupon, August said he couldn’t do that because that would bring Herman’s land right next to his house.

I was puzzled by the location of the first house being so far to one side of the farm, so I asked Carl why. Carl explained there were at least two reasons for this. One, they could get water close by from an established well. Wells were not an easy thing to come by. According to Herman, all wells had to be dug by hand and were quite large holes. The wells were usually a minimum of 10 – 12 feet deep. The holes had to be big enough to handle a shovel throwing ground out without cramping yourself as you dug deeper. Most wells got to be too deep for a shovel the last end. A bucket on a rope had to be employed. Of course, if you made a small hole with a short shovel, you had to start using a bucket sooner. You had to put a lantern down in the well before you went down to make sure no unsafe heavy gasses had collected during the night from the previous day’s digging. The well also had to be lined with either planks or stone masonry so it wouldn’t cave in. The lining had to extend above ground level to make sure no ground water ran into the well. Also, a frame had to be constructed to hold a crank for the bucket and rope.

The other reason Carl gave was to be close to a neighbor in a forested land. They had been used to living in farm villages in Prussia. This went back, in history, to a time before strong central governments were able to offer police protection to rural people. Farmers lived in houses over their stables, with their land, in mostly small plots going off in several directions. The land going in different directions was because of marriages and inheritances.

In this country, the only cleared land the first year was around the house. It was used to plant wheat and potatoes. The next few years, they concentrated on increasing the clearing, making one large field by the house. (According to Carl and Herman).

The closest flour mill was either Manitowoc or Two Rivers (Carl couldn’t recall which). Charles had to walk to the mill with the bag on his shoulder. They had a trail blazed to the lake from the house so he wouldn’t lose his way the first year. He had to follow the lake, fording the streams. Going and coming back took a number of days. When flour got too low and Charles couldn’t afford to take the time, Dorthea used to grind some wheat in her  coffee mill which she brought along from Prussia. The flour wasn’t the best but could be used for pancakes ( per Carl). We don’t know how long this lasted, I understand no more then a few years before a closer mill was built.

The second house was built on the back lawn of the present house, facing the driveway, and still stands today. It was used for a time as a horse barn and later as a chicken barn.  I asked Carl how they could afford to   build  two houses in such short order. He said the first one was put up in a hurry in order to get shelter and he figured it was never intended to be a permanent place. He said there wasn’t that much to a house in those days. They were always clearing land so there was no shortage of logs. They would pick out the best logs and most times burn the rest just to get rid of them. When your logs were cured, you hewed them square, notched out the ends and fitted them together, cutting out the places for windows and doors. Then you put a roof on and plastered any big holes shut. You saved some moss or old rags to poke in the holes as they showed up in winter.

I remember asking Minnie how they raised all those kids in that little log cabin. She said she remembers it as being a very nice house. In  fact, it had a wooden floor. I was surprised to learn most log cabins had only a dirt floor. She said it had two rooms. A kitchen and a living room, plus an upstairs which was used for sleeping.

On the 10th of July, 1876, the land… “with all the improvements, horses and cattle, machinery, all and everything there on” (statement from warranty deed) were sold by Charles and Dorthea to Albert for the sum of $1,000; and, (according to Herman) plus a bond of support.

Charles died by an accident involving a runaway team of horses. Carl told me about his grandfather dying a horrible death. He said the wagon wheel ran over the stomach area, cutting the flesh away, exposing the intestines. Carl said he laid around for several days suffering something terrible before he died and no one could do anything for him.

In Dorthea’s obituary, from the Ahnapee Record, it gives her name as Maria. I believe this is a mistake. Death notices are not always too accurate. Marriage certificates are usually very accurate. Her tombstone gives her name as Dorthea. The Commemorative Biographical Record of the Counties of Brown, Kewaunee and Door” gives her name as Doretha. The warranty deed that transferred the farm to Albert, as signed for her, gives her name as Dorathea. I can only speculate how the name change came about. Charles and Dorthea are buried on the Lutheran Cemetery near the Elbert Schmiling place.

There are a number of inconsistencies one runs into in the spelling of the Schrneling name. In some early records, it is spelled Schmiling and later Schmeilling. I also saw it spelled Schmaling; this was the name of an Indiana basketball player in the 1960’s. This spelling would then be phonetically correct by German standards.  This may be due to the German alphabet sound of the letters e and i. The letter e is pronounced like our like our long a and is called a; the letter i is pronounced like our long e and is is called e in the German alphabet.

The first great wave of Germans in America came to Pennsylvania, before the Revolutionary War, and, were, and still are, referred to as Pennsylvania Dutch. This is due to the misunderstanding of the German word that refers to themselves, their country, their written and spoken word. The people of Germany call themselves Deutch (pronounced Doy’ch); their country Deutchland; and their speech Deutch. German is a Latin word used by English speaking people. The English speaking people could hardly be blamed for thinking these people were Dutch. I can recall when I was younger that people of German descent were still referred to as being Dutchmen.

From Ahnapee Record  / Thursday, October 22, 1885    Heading: Fatal Accident

“Last Thursday as  Chas Schmiling was hauling some wood on his farm the colts he was driving took fright and ran away. Mr. Schmiling was thrown from the wagon and sustained injuries from the effects of which he died on Monday morning. 

Deceased was one of the oldest residents of Ahnapee having come here from Kolberg, Prussia, in the year 1857, when he took a claim about a mile and a half from this city, on which he lived up to the time of his tragic death. He was born in the year 1811 and was therefore 74 years of age. He leaves a wife; two sons, Henry and Albert, and, two daughters, Mrs. Charles Damas and Mrs. Chas. Noll, of Racine, to mourn his loss.

In Mr. Schmiling, we lose one of the oldest and most respected citizens of the county.

The funeral took place on Wednesday afternoon and was largely attended by the many friends and relatives of the deceased.”


From Ahnapee Record Thursday, May 25, 1893 Mrs.. Chas. Schmiling

“Maria, widow of Chas. Schmiling, died last Thursday, May 18, 1893, at the home of her son, Albert Schmiling, in the town of Ahnapee. Mrs. Schmiling was one of the pioneer settlers of Ahnapee; she was held in high esteem by neighbors and friends. She had been an invalid for a number of years, her disease becoming more complicated this spring and developing into dropsy from which she died.

Mrs. Schmiling’s maiden name was Maria Westphal. She was   born in Zarpen, Pomerania, June 4,  1814. In 1835, she was married to Charles Schmiling, who died in Ahnapee town in 1835.  Nine children were born to them, four of whom  are still living.  Henry Schmiling, of this city, Albert Schmiling and Mrs. Chas Damas of Ahnapee town and Mrs. Chas Noll, of Waterford. She came with her husband to America in 1857, and settled in the town of Ahnapee where she had ever since resided.

The funeral took place last Saturday from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in this city. Rev. F. J. Eppling officiating, and was numerously attended.

Among those present at the funeral from abroad, was Mrs. Chas Noll, daughter of the deceased, of Waterford, Wis.”

Also, on the same page as the above

“A band of gypsies have gone into camp near Albert Schmiling farm on the north river road.  There are about fifteen people in the band and they are a motley looking set. They have about a dozen horses and mules with them. Fortune telling is an important factor in their business and through it they add many dollars, it is said, to their store of cash. The camp is visited quite extensively, though principally by those only who are curious to see how the wondering homeless people live and work.”

Albert and Johanna

I know nothing of Albert’s early life. I assume he was a typical farm boy of his time with a minimum of education and plenty of chores around the farm. His older brother, brother, Henry, served in the Civil War but Albert would have been too young.

The earliest I can recall anything  that was said about Albert was that he fell hook, line and sinker for his cousin Johanna. This according to Minnie. She said she understood Albert had gone out with other girls. Johanna, or Hanna, for short, came over with her parents, Gotlieb and Caroline Grunewald, in 1872, from the Kolberg area of Prussia. (There are also other spellings of Grunewald.) She was eighteen at the time. Johanna’s mother was Albert’s right aunt, or his father’s sister. Hanna was about three years younger than Albert. 

I’m almost positive 1Albert knew of his cousin before he met her. There must have been some letters going to Germany as well as some from there to here.


Albert and Hanna were married June 20, 1874, two years after she came here. They had seven children who lived to adulthood.

Hanna’s parents settled on a farm near Kolberg, Door County.

Albert must have started dairy farming on a larger scale than his father, Charles. He had a fairly large dairy barn built. The basement area could hold about a dozen cows and a pen for young stock. It had a mow overhead. The basement part was about thirty by thirty plus a 30 ft. mow and thrash floor at ground level about 60 ft. in all by 30 f wide. Part of this barn still stood until 1939. The ground level part, or north end, was torn down in 1917 to make way for the new barn built by Herman. The rest was torn down to make room for the present machine shed and granery, again by Herman.

Before the Civil War, wheat and peas were major crops in Wisconsin. When the western lands opened up the land here got to be too expensive for such crops, so dairying was pushed. At first, cows were only milked during the summer months. The cheese factories closed down as colder weather came and pasture was gone. Albert held a check too long, according to Herman, and, the owner of the cheese factory had taken the money out of the checking account. Albert had to see him personally to get his money.

Women used to make butter at home from what ever milk they could get in winter. They tried to get enough extra to sell in town to help pay for groceries.

According to Herman Wolter, who owned the present Elbert Schmiling place, Albert had a very commanding voice. He could be at the far corner of the farm and still shout in­structions to his sons, Carl and Hugo, as they worked near the buildings.

About 1888, Albert built the brick house on the home farm, now owned by Clarence and Anna Mae Alexander. Herman Schmeling remembers him saying many times about how all the things that could fit into a pocket, like door hinges, locks and nails were the most expensive items to buy.

Ed Paape’s father was the carpenter who started the house. The Paape’s lived just north of the Hilton’s, or, present day, Stoller farm. I remember Ed as being somewhat older than my father, Herman, but I don’t know his father’s name. Paape had much of the framing up when a big wind storm blew the entire thing down. He became disgusted as he looked over the mess and told Albert he was too busy to clean up the wreckage and start over. After some delay, Paape managed to get another carpenter to take over.

During the great fire of 1871, also called Peshtigo Fire, my brother Walter, recalls hearing that the fire struck in the area during thrashing season, and, the men in the area, and, I assume, this included Charles and Albert, helped move a thrashing machine to Lake Michigan so it wouldn’t be burned.  Thrashing machines were scarce items, and, thrashing by hand didn’t appeal to the area men. I don’t think any fire struck the home farm. Walter said the Kolberg area, in Door County, had quite a bit of damage and the area was just starting to green up the next year when Johanna and her parents arrived.

At the 100th anniversary of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, in Algoma, the son of a former pastor was preaching the sermon. He was recalling some of the things his father told him about the Algoma area. He mentioned how the fire of 1871 raced toward the church on gale force winds. The men did all they could to beat back the fire in the area of the church but the wind was very strong and at last when it seemed hopeless, the pastor had everyone kneel down to pray, and, shortly thereafter, the wind switched. The fire moved in a different direction and the church was spared. Incidentally, Charles was a charter member of St. Paul’s.

When Albert died in the accident with the train, Hanna had what might be termed a nervous breakdown. She was unable to function as either a mother, or manager of a farm. Carl and Hugo were already married and on their respective farms. That left Minnie, Martha, Herman, Elsie and Hulda at home. If my figures are right, Hanna was 49, Carl was about 29, Herman 19 and Hulda 9. Charlie Krause was appointed overseer, or guardian, of the ones at home. (Charlie Krause was the father of August and Martin Krause and lived in what I remember as the Martin Krause farm, near present Elbert Schmiling place.) Hanna’s sister-in-law, Ida Meister Grunwald, took Hanna to her farm home in the Kolberg area. I don’t know how she accomplished it, but, I understand she worked Hanna from dawn to dusk, never giving her time to think about herself, (source, Bertha Heuer, daughter of Gothilf and Ida). Ida was also a widow at the time. I don’t know anything about Ida, but, I recall Herman saying Hanna had only one brother, Gothilf. He was a hunch back as the result of a bad fall as a baby. He had red hair and a number of his children have red hair.

Charlie Krause used to try and come in on a daily basis to see that things ran smoothly. I don’t know how long this went on, but it must have been for at least a year. Hanna did return, but she never recovered completely. She seemed like a frightened woman, afraid of any change. Herman, and, I guess, the rest of her children, had a hard job convincing her to sell the farm to Herman. I don’t know how the farm was operated during this time but Hanna must have had a widow’s share of the farm if she didn’t own it all herself. There were things Herman wanted to do and improvements he wanted to make. He especially wanted to build a new barn. It took from 1903, when Albert died, until 1917 before Hanna sold the farm to Herman, with a bond of support.

What I remember mostly about Hanna was that she was an invalid. We had to bring her to the table in a wheel chair. She was bedridden for the last year of her life. She died on the Easter weekend of March 27, 1937. She and Albert are buried on the Evergreen Cemetery, on Ry. 54, west of Algoma.

I remeber Bertha Gruendernan, Hanna’s sister, living with us. Bertha was blind, having had an  operation for cataracts that wasn’t successful.  The two old ladies used to sit in the front room and talk for hours. They talked about things that happened yesterday, last year, and, all the way back to their girlhood in Prussia. Bertha was married before she came here and did not come with her parents like Hanna did. I remember her saying that the year they got here was a very early spring. It got so warm a few of the farmers planted grain the last week of February. Most farmers wouldn’t take such a chance. As it turned out, the early birds got the worm. It turned rather nasty after that, never too cold, but, with some snow and later rains.  Spring planting got to be later. There was a dry spell and grain didn’t do well. The farmers who planted early had a good crop.                                                                                                          

These are recollections from my brothers, Walter and Reuben, and  some from what I remember. Living with a  grandmother in your home brings in quite a number of older relatives. They are bound to speak of things gone by and little people have big ears.

There may be errors in this history, but, it is the best of my recollections. I welcome any comments, additions, or recollections from any family member to help make this a more complete history.

Lloyd Schmeling / March 13, 1984

Note: The Carl Schmiling I refer to as a reference source, should not be confused with Charles, who sometimes signed his name Carl, especially on the warranty deed conveying the farm to Albert. Charles, or Chas., also called Carl, was born in 1811, in Prussia. The Carl I refer to for reference was my oldest uncle born in 1875, and, the one I went to for information right after my father’s funeral.