Biography of John Schmitt
Houston County, MN Biographies

John Schmitt, one of the hardy pioneers of Caledonia township, was born in Prussia, Germany, and grew up in his native country. In 1849 he made a trip to America, returning again to Germany. What he had seen of the country made him resolve to make it his future home and it was not long before he again set foot on Amreican shores. On each occasion his voyage was made in a sailing vessel, the first trip across occupying sixty two days and the second ninety days. Making his way west to Chicago, he there obtained work at brickmaking, though by trade he was a weaver. In Chicago, where he remained for several years, he was married to Mary Demmer, and three children were born to them there, Theodore, Hubert and Emma. Realizing, however, that the city was no place in which to make any great success and provide for the needs of a growing family, Mr. Schmitt resolved to get onto the land and become a farmer. To do that he needed to go where land was both good and cheap. Good land could be found in many places, but in the older settled states it cost more than he could afford, and his thoughts accordingly turned to the northwest where conditions were more favorable for him. At last, determined to try his luck as a pioneer, he set out with his family in a wagon drawn by oxen, taking an almost straight westerly line f or Dubuque county, Iowa, and then turning north, continuing his journey until he reached Caledonia township, Houston county, Minn. On several different occasions while on the way, as the country became wilder, and the distance seemed long and interminable, he was on the point of turning, back, but, nevertheless, kept plodding along. On his arrival here he located on 160 acres of mostly wild land, there being only three acres broken. There were no buildings and he had to build a log shanty. He had brought with him some stock, for which also he had to build a shelter, and then he found himself fairly started on his new career. There were then but three houses in Caledonia village and the township was very thinly settled. Of roads, there were none anywhere near his farm. To earn a little money he split shingles from logs, a common resource of the pioners, but these had to be carried to market and brought but a small price when there. It proved sufficient, however, as he was soon raising most of his food supply on his farm. In time he acquired eighty acres more and made good progress in developing the place, putting up more buildings, among them a substantial hewed-log house, which has since been remodeled by his son Phillip and is now in use. At last, after a career of useful industry resulting in well deserved prosperity, Mr. Schmitt passed from this life at the age of eighty years, honored and respected by his many friends and acquaintances, and mourned by his surviving relatives. He had been for many years a widower, as his wife had died at the age of thirty seven. He had served as a member of the town board, and, as a faithful Catholic, has helped the churches of his religion which were established in his neighborhood. In addition to his three children already mentioned, he and his wife had three others, who were born in Caledonia township: Phillip H., owner of the old home farm, now living in Caledonia village; and Lizzie and Ann, twins, the latter of whom died in infancy. Lizzie is now the wife of Leo Schaffer of Zumbrota, Minn.

The History of Houston County, Minnesota
Edited by: Franklyn Curtis-Wedge.
H. C. Cooper, Jr. & Co.
Winona, Minn. 1919


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