The Iroquois County Genealogical Society presented its 9th cemetery walk this past Sunday at St. John Lutheran-Schwer Cemetery. The event had a large attendance compared to the small cemetery, which included several interesting stories of early settlers to the area.
Mary Buhr, head researcher for the ICGS, welcomed everyone and spoke as Henrietta Tucker, wife of William Tucker. She was born in Germany and at about age 19, her family moved to America. They eventually ended up in Cincinnati, also known as Queen City. She loved it there. She and William headed west to purchase land and ended up in Iroquois County where William bought 320 acres – which is in the area of the current church and cemetery. The ground was nothing but prairie grass as far as the eye could see.
Tucker was the first German to settle in this area. As the area became settled and more people moved in, it was discussed as to what the name of the settlement would be. Henrietta suggested Queen City after her beloved Cincinnati and that was decided on. The settlement was listed as Queen City in the 1884 Iroquois County Atlas.
Following a harrowing traverse of five miles in order to attend a funeral, settlers decided a church needed to be built so it would be closer for funerals and weddings. Tucker offered the first church council six acres of land next to the school property with the stipulation the church be built within five years. The church came to be built, but Tucker died before construction was complete.
In 1887, John Schwer sold his general store to his brother, Louie, and a post office was established there. It was then Queen City was changed to Schwer and Louie became the postmaster. Prior to this post office, the closet place to get mail was Woodland. In 1902 the rural free delivery came and so the Schwer post office closed, with the area’s address becoming Milford. After the post office closed, Henry Schroeder moved the building to his farm, about a half-west to the west, and used it as a garage.
Jerry Moore has been a presenter during several of the cemetery walks. For Sunday’s event he told the story of Harm Schaumburg, who decided to come to come to America after the death of his father. He arrived at the Port of New Orleans in November, 1857, traveled up the Mississippi to Quincy, then to Peoria where he farmed. When he was 18 he traveled back to Quincy to farm but in May 1864 he enlisted as a private in Company B of the 137th Illinois Infantry Regiment. A 100-day regiment was brought about by the governors and federal government as a way to help offset the pressure put on the Union Army towards the end of the Civil War. Though Schaumburg never fired his gun, those who joined the 100-day regiment were considered vital to the war efforts by President Lincoln.
Schaumburg married in 1871 and moved to Iroquois County in 1874. He purchased 80 acres of land and set up his farm, selling it eight years later for a profit and then purchasing a 160-acre plot. He and his wife had seven children and Harm ended up being a justice of the peace and serving as a highway commissioner 20 years.
Tragedy struck in1895 when two of his sons, Harm Jr. and Frank, were killed in a farm accident. They had been trying to tighten a belt but the belt snapped, causing the saw blade to snap, cutting the two boys in two.
Eventually his oldest son took over the farm, and Harm and his wife Anna moved to a residence on West Jones Street in Milford. After Anna died, a son and daughter moved in with him. As of 1933, Harm and one other Milford gentleman were the only two Civil War veterans in Milford.
On Decoration Day, 1933 (now known as Memorial Day), a ceremony took place at Maple Grove Cemetery and two members of the Milford troop of the Boy Scouts of America were planting nut trees from the Gettysburg battlefield. This was taking place by troops across the United States. Two trees were planted – one each in honor of the two Milford Civil War vets. Harm died in October, 1933 – the funeral took place at his home on West Jones Street, and then his body was conveyed to the Schwer cemetery. He was given a grand send-off, which included a 21-gun salute and a large procession. The other Civil War vet died soon after.
Moore added a personal note to this story, as during his research, he discovered that his father was one of the two Boy Scouts who planted the nut trees at Maple Grove.
Quinton Schaumburg, great-great grandson of Harm Schaumburg, told the story of the death of Harm’s two young sons in the belt/saw blade incident. He explained how the belt came off the buzz saw and killed the boys instanteously.
Shanda Jaremus talked about Johann Rothfuss and Trentje Heeren Rothfuss, her great-grandparents on her mother’s grandmother’s side. Johann and Trentje married in 1882 in Flanagan and moved to this area around 1886. By 1890 they had bought a farm. From 1883-1905, the couple had 11 children. The family was lifelong members of St. John’s-Schwer. They were a part of the fabric of the community. All their children were baptized and confirmed at St. John’s Lutheran Church, Schwer — Jaremus believes all the children were married there, and a lot of the family are buried in the church cemetery.
The oldest son, Harry, farmed all his life and died at age 91. Two sons died in infancy, and another family member died when the tractor he was riding on got too close to the ditch and slid down, landing on top of him – he was found later in the day but was already deceased.
On June 6, 1920, Johanna and Trentje had purchased a new car and their daughter, Johanna, was driving. The car stalled on the railroad tracks and was hit by a train, with Trentje passing away within a couple hours. Johann had a serious head injury but survived, and Johanna had terrible injuries to her leg but they did manage to save the leg; however, she walked with a limp the rest of her life. Johann died in 1926 and is buried at Schwer.
Dee Eckersley spoke of the Frerichs family who came from Germany. Several of the family members were sponsored to come to the US, which cost about $30 each at the time. After discussing various family events, she talked about two cookie irons. One was brought to the US by her great-great-grandmother, and the other was made in the states by a man for his sister. It was a tradition in Germany to make cookies around New Year’s Eve. Eckersley’s Aunt Annette knew the cookie iron would be included in an estate sale so she attended that sale for the sole purpose of acquiring the cookie iron. She was very blunt when asked about the item as she didn’t want someone else to purchase it. They are now precious family heirlooms.
Ben Storm, a senior at Milford High School, talked about the tragic accident which took Herman Smith’s life. Herman Smith was born in September 1897 and died in September 1919 in Ash Grove Township. He was working on a tractor and ended up being run over by the plow, which sliced his neck, causing him to bleed to death in the field. He and his wife, Anna (van Hoveln), had married in 1918, the result of an arranged marriage, so when he passed, Anna was seven months pregnant with her one and only child.
After Herman’s death, Anna’s sister-in-law basically forced Anna from the farm. It ended up the sister-in-law’s husband ended up dieing while farming as his tractor got too close to the ditch and rolled over on him.
Deane Geiken spoke of the Geiken family and was proud to share he had been able to visit some of his ancestors’ sites in Germany. Many members of the Geiken family are buried in the Schwer cemetery. Harm and his wife Helke had nine children in ddition to Gaycke, and two of those children passed away. Harm, his wife, Gaycke and his fiance all traveled to the US aboard the USS Baltic. Gayecke married his fiance, Athena, 13 days after arriving in Peoria. The couple would have seven children but only three would live to adulthood. Gaycke (Geike) and Athena bought 80 acres in Crescent Township in 1872 where they settled and raised their family.
Gaycke was among those who traveled through the horrible weather in February 1875 to attend a funeral five miles away. He, along with 12 others, formed the group to organize the church and cemetery closer to home. The small, simple church was about 26’x40’ and Gaycke served on the church council 1877-1892. In 1895 he bought another 120-acre farm, which is referred to as Gaycke’s home place. His wife Athena died in 1888 and is buried in the Schwer cemetery, along with their one-year-old son Karl August Geiken. Two more of their children are buried there but their places have been lost in history.
Gaycke moved to Crescent City with his second wife and served as a road commissioner for Ash Grove and Crescent townships. Later he moved to his younger son’s home in Milford. On Dec. 13, 1928, the family sat down to the midday meal and right after grace, Gaycke fainted away and never revived. As his church membership was switched to St. Peter’s Lutheran Church when he moved to Crescent City, he is buried in the church cemetery south of the village.
Daniel Flora gave a short presentation of the Lubbe Saathoff family who came from Germany and settled in this area. Lubbe was born in 1875 and later spent five years in the service. He married and had seven children in Germany but some died. After moving to the US he had more children. He spent about 30 years in the central area of Illinois working as a farm laborer, leading a humble life. After he retired, he lived in Champaign city where he passed away in 1954.
Larry Schuette is the great-grandson of Berhardt and Ekeline Fisher, so he shared his great-grandmother’s tragic story. The couple had left their home in Germany and around 1881 came to the US with their children: 1-year-old Heyo, 6-year-old Hilka, 3-year-old Fannie and 9-year-old Bernhard. Bernhard loved helping on the farm. When her little ones got sick, they ran high fevers and cried in pain. When the doctor came, he saw the rash where the sores would become almost black, and diagnosed the children with black measles.The first to die was Heyo, three days later Hilka died, and four days after that Fannie died. Bernhard ws the only child not inflicted with the diease.
Not so long after the deaths of the youngest children, Bernhard was helping to round up some hogs which had gotten loose. On the last hog, someone picked up a long-handled pitchfork and was using the handle to guide the hog. The pitchfork was knocked out of his hands, and as Bernhard ran up to help with the hog, he ran into it. His father came up behind him and inquired if he was hurt, to which Bernhard responded “just a little.” He then fell backward into his father’s arms and was dead within 2-3 minutes.
The couple had lost all four of their children within 15 months. They did go on to have eight more children and they named four of them after the little ones they had lost. Many of their descendants live in the area.
Diane Van Hoveln spoke of Harm Janssen, who came to the US to attend his son’s wedding. Harm was born in 1847 and he and his wife had nine children – eight boys and one girl. Three of his sons were Philip, Wilhelm and Bernhardt. Philip and Wilhem had come to the US in 1908, sponsored by their uncle, Harm’s brother, Hiram. In 1907 Harm received a letter of his son Wilhelm’s upcoming wedding. He wanted to surprise his sons in the US so he and Bernhard set out on Nov. 18 to come to America. They arrived in Boston on Dec. 1 and made their way to Milford, where they surprised Philip and Wilhelm, announcing they were here for the wedding. The bad news was: Wilhelm had gotten married Nov. 17, the day before the father/son headed to America.
Harm had a cold when he arrived in Milford and soon it developed into pneumonia (also known as lung fever). Harm never made it back to Germany as he died on his 60th birthday, which was Dec. 22. It ended up Harm’s was the first funeral to take place in the church building, which was dedicated on Nov. 17, and Wilhelm’s marriage was the first to take place in the church.
The ICGS is a non-profit organization so several programs are conducted throughout the year as fundraisers and to share genealogical information with attendees. This Sunday, Sept. 18, the ICGS is hosting the “Scottish Clans and Castles” program at the Crescent City Community Center. The program will take place 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., with lunch being served from 12 noon to1 p.m. There is a bit higher fee if tickets are not purchased in advance. The public is welcome to attend.