Biography of Charles H. Dietrich
Adams County, NE Biographies





CHARLES HENRY DIETRICH.
Distinguished among Nebraska's eminent sons is Charles Henry Dietrich, whose record reflects credit and honor upon the state which has honored him. In business circles he figured prominently for many years as a leading banker and in other connections he has left the impress of his individuality upon the history of the commonwealth, for he has been Nebraska's chief executive and has also been a member of the United States senate. His course in office, as in private life, has been creditable to himself and satisfactory to his constituents and his work has at all times been fraught with good for the community at large. A native of Illinois, Mr. Dietrich was born in Aurora on the 26th of November, 1853, his parents being Leonard and Wilhelmina ( Stein) Dietrich, both of whom were natives of Germany. The father, who was born in Darmstadt, died at the advanced age of eighty six years, and the mother, whose birth occurred at Frankfort, passed away at the age of eighty years. He was a shoe manufacturer and followed that business in Germany until the time of the revolution of 1848. He belonged to the socialist party, joined the revolutionists and was driven from Germany. He then went to Canada, from which point he proceeded by slow stages down through the United States to St. Louis, where he met his wife and family, who had come by sailing vessel to the new world, arriving after a voyage of three months or in the year 1849. Mr. Dietrich then took his family to Aurora, Illinois, where he became connected with the shoe business. He was a well educated man and a most interesting conversationalist and he taught both German and French in the schools of Aurora, where he continued to reside throughout his remaining days, taking an active interest in the affairs of the city and enjoying the fruits of liberty as offered in the new world.

Charles Henry Dietrich attended school in Aurora to the age of ten years, when he ran away from home, possessing the venturesome spirit that many a boy manifests. The following year he returned home and then went to school until he reached the age of twelve. Again leaving Aurora, he made his way to St. Joseph, Missouri, and for three years occupied a position as clerk in the hardware store of W. M. Wyeth. In 1868 he went to Chicago, where he engaged with the Hayden Kay Saddlery & Hardware Company until their business was destroyed by the great fire of 1871. He then entered the service of the Chicago City Railroad Company as inspector but after having trouble with a conductor went to St. Louis, where he worked as a conductor on the street railroad for a short time. Later he was at Memphis, Tennessee, where he drove a horse car until quarantined with yellow fever. After his release he made his way to Laconia Circle, Arkansas, with the intention of going into business there on his own account, but he was robbed of his money. Returning to Aurora, he worked at the blacksmith's trade until 1875, when he made his way to the Black Hills. At that time the city of Deadwood was not laid out and the district was still an Indian reservation. He cut logs used in the building of the first store there and, working for a pioneer firm, he delivered goods on pack mules all over the Black Hills. One of the party located in Spearfish, South Dakota, and traded his interest in the town site for a gold watch. Mr. Dietrich located the Aurora mine in Hidden Treasure Gulch and worked the mine for a short time, after which he sold out to a syndicate composed of United States Senators George E. Spencer, Thomas Platt and Roscoe Conkling. He then returned to Aurora and in 1878 made his way to Texas, where he had a big herd of sheep near San Antonio.

In the fall of 1878 Mr. Dietrich came to Hastings, where he engaged in general merchandising with John Wood, the first mayor of the city. In 1880 he turned his attention to the hardware business, forming a partnership with J. B. Dallas, with whom he remained for a year. In 1881 he opened a loan and insurance office as senior partner in the firm of Dietrich & Slaker, their relation being maintained for about six years or until 1887, when Mr. Dietrich organized the German National Bank, remaining as its president for eighteen years or until July, 1903. He placed that institution upon a safe, substantial basis, inaugurated a progressive policy that worked for the upbuilding of the bank and at the same time carefully safeguarded the interests of depositors. Throughout the long years of his residence in Hastings Mr. Dietrich has taken a most active and helpful part in promoting the upbuilding of the city and advancing its interests in many ways. For several years he was the president of the Board of Trade and he took an active part in inducing the Northwestern and Missouri Pacific Railroads to build their lines through Hastings. He has ever been a leader in movements for the benefit of the city and surrounding country. He it was who planted the first timothy and clover field in the county and also the first alfalfa field, and at one time he was the owner of large farm holdings in Adams county. He recognized the opportunity for judicious investment and so placed his capital that excellent results accrued.

Mr. Dietrich has been twice married. On the 4th of May, 1878, he wedded Miss Elizabeth Slacker, of Aurora, who passed away in February, 1887. Their daughter, Gertrude E., is the wife of Herbert Knox Smith, a well known supporter of Theodore Roosevelt who served as commissioner of corporations at Washington from 1907 to 1912, has been a member of the Connecticut house of representatives, was a candidate for United States senator and has also been candidate for governor on the progressive ticket. In 1909 Mr. Dietrich was again married, his second union being with Miss Margretta S. Stewart, of Philadelphia, a daughter of William Shaw and Delia (Allman) Stewart. The Stewarts were of an old Scotch family established in the United States in 1749. Her father was a leading physician of Philadelphia who was graduated from the Jefferson Medical College there. In 1861 he enlisted in the army and served throughout the Civil war. Following the close of hostilities he returned to Philadelphia and began practice, being recognized as a prominent and honored representative of the profession in that city. He was one of the most prominent members of the Philadelphia Medical Society and he was the one who introduced the four years' course in the Philadelphia College of Medicine. He was dean of its medical department and in that connection maintained the highest standard of professional ethics. Three times he was sent as a delegate to the International Medical Society. Mrs. Dietrich is very active in all civic and social affairs of Hastings. She is president of "Sunnyside," an institution for the care of the old, the destitute and the needy, was one of the organizers and the president of the Adams County Woman's Suffrage Association and is a member of the state board of the Suffrage Association.

In his fraternal relations Mr. Dietrich is a prominent Mason, having taken the consistory degrees of the Scottish Rite. He also belongs to the Benevolent Protective Order of Elks. In politics he has ever been an earnest republican and has come more and more into prominence with the passing years as his opinions have carried weight in party councils and his efforts have proven effective in promoting political successes. He was elected governor of Nebraska in 1900 after the state had been under democratic and populistic rule for eight years. He was chosen on the 28th of March, 1901, to fill out the unexpired term of Senator Hayward and therefore resigned his position as governor on the 1st of May following, after which he continued to represent the state in the United States senate from December 21, 1901, until March 4, 1905. In the latter year he retired from all activity, business, political and otherwise, but the state is still enjoying the benefits of his public service and of his business activity, for he set in motion the wheels of progress and the results have not yet reached their full fruition. His record is an indication of what may be accomplished through the employment of opportunities when laudable ambition and determination point out the way, and his life history should have its inspirational effect upon the lives of others, encouraging them to continued effort toward the attainment of high ideals.

From:
Past and Present of
Adams County, Nebraska
Supervisong Editor: Judge William R. Burton
Assistant Editor: David J. Lewis
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company
Chicago, 1916


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